Middle Grades Mathematics Textbooks
A Benchmarks-Based Evaluation
|Part I (Continued)
As an investigative tool, Project 2061s curriculum-materials analysis procedure can be powerful in identifying strengths and weaknesses of textbooks and textbook series. But it can also provide useful insights about the quality of currently available textbooks in general. For example, consider the following findings:
Content Depth. On the six benchmarks used to probe conceptual and skill development of core mathematical ideas, 12 of the 13 textbooks evaluated did not differ greatly in their inclusion of number and geometry skills. On the other hand, there were noticeable dissimilarities in the breadth and depth of their conceptual treatment of fractions, shapes, and equations. None of the textbook series attempted to address all of the ideas and skills contained in the six benchmarks. One textbook series addressed five of the six benchmarks in depth; four series addressed four in depth, and the remaining textbooks addressed three or fewer in depth.
Instructional Effectiveness. The analysis of the textbooks instructional strategies, however, revealed stark contrasts among the textbooks in the adequacy of instruction for the specific benchmarks. Four of the textbook series are highly rated for their engagement of students, development of mathematics concepts, and support of teachers. Eight textbook series received mixed ratings on instructional criteria.
In summary, findings from the Project 2061 evaluation are cause for both optimism and concern. It is clear that reform principles for mathematics education are beginning to have an impact on textbooks and on the developers and publishers who create them. Nevertheless, a great deal more information is needed on how these same textbooks are actually used in the classroom and how students actually perform on appropriate assessments. Our hope is that these new insights will be useful to educators, parents, and policymakers in their efforts to improve mathematics achievement for all students.